Tops in '10: The Best Big Band Albums of the Year
And there you have them. As noted, there were tough choices to make, as we reviewed a number of other first-class big band albums during the year including (but not limited to) the following: Glenn Cashman And the Southland Big Band; Frank Macchia, Folk Songs for Jazzers; Stan Kenton, This Is an Orchestra!; the Fred Hess Big Band, Hold On; Michael Treni, Turnaround; the Joris Teepe Big Band, We Take No Prisoners; the Dan Gailey Jazz Orchestra, What Did You Dream?; Chie Imaizumi, A Time of New Beginnings; the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra, Mezzanine; Bobby Watson and the UMKC Jazz Orchestra, The Gates BBQ Suite, and new releases by the University of North Texas One O'Clock and Two O'Clock Lab Bands. In all, another pretty impressive year for big bands.
Bill Ashton, OBE
Bill Ashton, who founded Great Britain's superlative National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO) in 1965 and served as the orchestra's music director for 45 years before stepping aside, traveled to Buckingham Palace on November 25 for his investiture as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). He had received an MBE (Member of the Order etc.) in 1978. Ashton, a saxophonist / composer from Blackpool, Lancashire, served in the Royal Air Force before attending Oxford University (1957-60) where he began playing professionally and founded the Oxford Big Band. Returning to London, Ashton spent time as a teacher while playing in various big bands. In 1965, he and Pat Evans formed the London Schools Orchestra, which later became the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Besides leading NYJO, Ashton wrote the music and lyrics for a number of songs performed by the ensemble for its various albums and public appearances. Other honors include the BBC Radio 2 Jazz Award (1995), a silver medal from the Worshipful Company of Musicians, and a fellowship from the Leeds College of Music. NYJO's upper age limit is twenty-five; many of its alumni are among Great Britain's most accomplished and sought-after musicians, and we have Bill Ashton to thank for that. On a more personal note, if it weren't for Ashton I probably wouldn't be doing this. He was the first person to ask me to write a CD review, something I'd never even considered. I submitted the commentary to Cadence magazine, and it was rejected because Cadence didn't accept freelance reviews. A month later, Bob Rusch, the head man at Cadence, asked if I'd like to write for the magazine, and the rest, as they say, is history. Thanks, Bill.
And that's it for now. Until next time, keep swingin' . . . !
New and Noteworthy
1. Vaughn Wiester's Famous Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Tempo (FJO)
2. Chie Imaizumi, A Time of New Beginnings (Capri)
3. Dan Gailey Jazz Orchestra, What Did You Dream? (OA2)
4. Dani Felber Big Band, More Than Just Friends (No Label)
5. Navy Commodores, Directions (Commodores Jazz)
6. Bobby Watson / UMKC Jazz Orchestra, Gates BBQ Suite (Lafiya Music)
7. Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra, Mezzanine (Owl Studios)
8. Lucerne Jazz Orchestra, Don't Walk Too Far (Unit Records)
9. Metropole Orchestra Big Band, Solo Flight (NPS)
10. Paquito D'Rivera / WDR Big Band, ImproviseOne (Connector Records)
11. Northern Illinois University Jazz Ensemble, The Life of Swing (NIU Jazz)
12. Joris Teepe Big Band, We Take No Prisoners (Challenge)
13. Elmhurst College Jazz Band, Harlem Nocturne (EC Jazz)
14. Mats Rondin / Isidor Chamber Orchestra, Isidor (Prophone)
15. Capital University Big Band, Swingin' Our Way Through Europe (CU Jazz)